When Patrol Officer Alistair Cawdor commits suicide on a small island off New Guinea a colonial inquest is launched. Five witnesses are called to give testimony: the government interpreter, the territory's cadet officer, a planter who claims ownership of the island, one of his servants and the son of the local chief.
Each has a disturbing story to tell. Cawdor's secret past will eventually be put together, piece by damning piece. But what of the ominous newcomer Metusela, and the unidentified visitant that has inspired a cargo cult?